Meet the UYP16 Professors

Read below for more information on last year’s professors and stay tuned as we prepare to recruit professors for #UYP17.

Naomi Brickel, Director, Special Education Parent Center
Westchester Institute for Human Development
Class: Advocating in the IEP Process: Owning Your Education – And Future!
Major: Peer Advocacy
Naomi Brickel directs the Hudson Valley Special Education Parent Center at Westchester Institute for Human Development and has overseen the implementation of initiatives focused on successful youth transition from school to adult life including projects aimed at post-secondary education, employment, and self-determination for students with disabilities. She has played an active role in New York State policy development in all of these areas, is appointed to the NYSED’s Commissioner’s Advisory Panel, and was a co-author of a NYSED Training curriculum. Naomi is the mother of six children and has navigated the special education process successfully with two of them in New Rochelle, NY where she lives and currently serves on the Board of Education

Daphnne Brown, Director of Family Involvement and Outreach for FTNYS and the Project Director for the Statewide Family Network-NYS.
Families Together Network in New York State
Class: The Peer Workforce: Building a Profession, Maintaining a Movement
Major: Systems Advocacy
Daphnne assists with training, providing support and technical assistance to families, service providers, advocates and FTNYS Chapters in the areas of family support, recovery, systems advocacy and parent empowerment. She is the parent of five children; who have been or are involved in the mental health, substance abuse, juvenile justice, and developmental disabilities systems. She has experience with different child-serving systems and travels across New York State partnering with organizations, advocates and families members to address cross-systems challenges and to find collaborative solutions. Ms. Brown received her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from SUNY at Brockport.

Cathy Cave, Co-Founder, Inspired Vision, LLC
Class: Trauma-Informed Peer Support
Major: Peer Advocacy
Cathy  Cave has 30 years’ experience as an administrator, facilitator, and consultant specializing in cultural competence and disparities elimination, trauma-informed services and supports, and leadership in child welfare, juvenile justice, disaster response, mental health, and substance abuse services. She is one of New York State’s early trauma champions, coordinating county collaborates and the Mastering the Key Connection Statewide Trauma Conferences in the mid-1990s. Cathy is a Sr. Training Consultant for the National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma  & Mental Health and has provided technical assistance to the National Center for Trauma-Informed Care. She is the Director of Training for the Mental Health Empowerment Project and the former Director for Cultural Competence for the New York State Office of Mental Health. As a consultant, she utilizes her survivor, family, community and provider perspectives to facilitate organizational change to improve service quality at local, state and national levels.

Chester Finn, Self- Advocacy Association of NYS
Class: Songs of Self-Advocacy and Self-Determination
Activity for All Students
Chester has been a board member, President, and for the last ten years an advisor of the Self-Advocacy Association of New York State.  Chester Finn has worked for the Office of People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) for 18 years as a Client Advocate.  On a national level, Chester has been a member of the National Council on Disabilities and a board member and president of Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered, a national self-advocacy organization.  Chester has written some original songs, is a soulful singer and plays the Sax.

Alex Frisina, Long Island Regional Youth Partner, YOUTH POWER!
Class: Harnessing Hip Hop
Activity for All Students
Alexander Frisina is a hardworking and dedicated young professional that was labeled with Special Education needs at an early age. Adopted at the age of 3 by a family located in Eastern Long Island, Alex is the youngest of four siblings, and the only adopted member of his family. Facing issues of self-identity Alex struggled with depression. Throughout the decision-making process of his treatment, he felt voiceless and was made to believe he had no choices. This feeling pushed Alex to seek alternative methods of expression; which lead him down the road of creative writing. From a combination of his love for creative writing and interest in music, Alex began to write lyric’s to hip hop songs.
In the beginning, Alex used his song writing as an escape from reality but as time went by and he became more focused on his craft, hip-hop grew from a hobby to a career goal. From recording in his room on his mom’s computer to now recording at multimillion dollar facilities across the country. Music has helped Alex not only cope during times of need but also experience new things, see new places and met many influential people. Music has connected Alex with natural supports and people worldwide, with radio stations in Canada, France, Lebanon and Germany playing his music. Alex has also toured Canada, Colorado and down South; taking part in shows with the likes of Stevie Stone, EMPD, Ja Rule, KRS 1, Mobb Deep, Futuristic, Sean Price and more.

Walter Ginter, Project Director, Medication Assisted Recovery Support (MARS) Project
Class: The Peer Workforce: Building a Profession, Maintaining a Movement
Major: Systems Advocacy
Walter is founding Project Director of the Medication Assisted Recovery Support (MARS™) Project. MARS™ is designed to provide peer recovery support to persons whose recovery from opiate addiction is assisted by medication. MARS™ is a collaboration between the Division of Substance Abuse, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Yeshiva University and the National Alliance for Medication Assisted (NAMA) Recovery.  MARS™ was funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT), Recovery Community Services Program (RCSP).
In 2012, he helped create the Beyond MARS Training Institute at Einstein where opiate treatment programs are trained to implement MARS™ around the US. Prior to MARS, Walter served NAMA Recovery as Vice President, Director of Training and as a board member. He has also served as a board member of Faces and Voices of Recovery (FaVoR), as a National Recovery Month Planning Partner, a member of the NYS Recovery Implementation Team, and as a member of the Methadone Transition Advisory Group (MTAG). He has served on more than twenty federal and NYS panels, expert panels, and advisory groups.

Pauline Gordon, Youth Advocate, Lawyers for Children, Inc.
Class: Know Your Rights in Foster Care: You Are Not Alone!
Major: Peer Advocacy
Pauline Gordon currently works as a full-time client advocate at Lawyers For Children Inc. As a former foster youth, she has used the lessons learned from overcoming adversity in the foster care system as a driving force to help others in similar crises. She appeared on panels and has spoken at national conferences and other events, bringing a consumer and youth perspective to discussions. In addition, she’s written articles and personal essays which raised awareness of issues affecting youth in child serving systems for award-winning magazine Represent / Youth Communications. National media outlets and advocacy organizations republished many of her stories. Her overall goal as an advocate for under-served populations is helping them find their own voice and discover their strengths so that they can view themselves as survivors and become self-advocates.  Pauline Gordon has taken and completed several trainings; Basic Mediation, Recovery Coach, Motivational Interviewing, Mental Health First Aid, Mandated Child Abuse Reporting, Just the Basics Advocacy, Skill Building & Respite, along with many others. Pauline Gordon has her Master’s degree in Social Work from Fordham University.

Brad Hansen, Public Policy Coordinator, Families Together in NYS
Class: The Peer Workforce: Building a Profession, Maintaining a Movement
Major: Systems Advocacy
As Public Policy Coordinator, Brad is responsible for tracking New York State budget and legislative activities regarding children and child-serving systems and researching emerging trends. He works closely with the Chief Executive Officer, Public Policy Committee and Chapter Leaders to help influence the legislature and state agencies in the interest of families. He represents Families Together’s public policy efforts and is an active member of several committees and coalitions, including the Raise the Age|NY Campaign and Addiction Community Recovery Supports Coalition. In addition to this work, Brad is also Program Director of the SAMHSA-funded New York Peer Network for Recovery and Resiliency. Brad studied as an undergraduate at the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy.

Amanda Haught, Information Specialist, United We Stand of NY
Class: Advocating in the IEP Process: Owning Your Education – And Future!
Major: Peer Advocacy
My name is Amanda Haught I live in Brooklyn, NY. I currently work for a not for profit organization called United We Stand of NY.  As an individual with a learning disability, I have always been a strong self-advocate pertaining to my IEP and services I felt I needed in order to succeed in school.  As an adult with a disability, I have a better understanding of the important role I played as an equal partner at the table when planning my education and my future.   As a result of my experiences I have learned that “everything is possible with the right supports in place.”  As an advocate, I always stress the value that each individual plays when given the opportunity to take ownership of their IEP, thus their education and how it impacts their future planning. My main is to help youth become effective self-advocates by empowering them with the skills they need in order for them to use the power of their voice.

Angela Hebner, Mental Health Empowerment Project, Inc.
Class: The Peer Workforce: Building a Profession, Maintaining a Movement
Major: Systems Advocacy
Angela was diagnosed with a serious mental illness after a car accident in 1994 that not only affected her, but her husband and three young children as well. Angela’s journey to advocate for herself and her family led her into a rewarding career in peer support services that started in NYC and continues today in Albany NY where she is the statewide Director of Peer Support Services for Mental Health Empowerment Project, Inc.
While in NYC, Angela was a Division Director for Baltic Street: Advocacy, Employment, and Housing, Inc. where in addition to directing 3 peer programs, she served as the chairperson for Staten Island’s Regional Advisory Committee to the New York State Office of Mental Health and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Consumer Advisory Board. She also co-chaired the Staten Island Mental Health Council and was a member of the Parachute NYC Advisory Board.
Angela has been trained in a variety of topics including “Intentional Peer Support”, “Peer Wellness Coaching”, and “Benefits and Work Incentives Planning and Assistance”, “Trauma-Informed Peer Support”  and ” Wellness Recovery Action Planning”.  Angela has also earned an advanced certificate on “Integrated Health” in primary and behavioral health care from New York University’s Mc Silver Institute for Poverty, Policy and Research in spring 2015 and is proud to be the 2014 recipient of NYAPRS’s Brendan Nugent Leadership Award. 

Steve Holmes, Self Advocacy Association of NYS
Class: Songs of Self-Advocacy and Self-Determination
Activity for All Student
Steve Holmes has worked with and for people with developmental and other disabilities since 1969.  For the past 23 years, he has worked directly for the Board of the Self-Advocacy Association of New York State (SANYS) as the Administrative Director.  Over the years, Steve has held numerous positions in our work including;  attendant at an institution, live-in-house parent, group home and program manager, and two positions as an Executive Director of organizations supporting people with disabilities.
Steve has been involved with the development of self-determination and other individualized supports in New York for many years, SANYS took a lead in New York in helping to create person-centered and person controlled options.  Steve coordinates the organization’s advocacy and grassroots efforts with and for the SANY’s board.
Steve has also written a number of “Songs of Self-Advocacy and Self-determination” and has played all of the USA with his friend and colleague, Chester Finn.

Sam Kawola, NYS OASAS
Class: Ethical Dilemmas in the Digital Age
Major: Peer Advocacy
Sam Kawola is the Project Coordinator of the New York – Focus on Youth and Families grant at the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS). She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology in 2014 from Siena College in Loudonville, NY and is currently pursuing her Master of Social Work from Fordham University in New York, NY.

Cortney Lovell
Class: Youth Addiction Recovery; a Growing Movement
Major: Peer Advocacy

Cortney Lovell works to empower others to discover the depths of their potential. The Director and Founder of WRise Consulting, Cortney offers consulting services with expertise specializing in addiction, mental health, wellness and recovery. Prior to starting her business, Cortney worked with Friends of Recovery – New York as the Director of Recovery Education and Training.  She volunteered with Young People in Recovery before working as Young People in Recovery’s National Chapter Director. Cortney also proudly served as a Prevention Specialist for Accenture Federal Services and spent several years as a substance use counselor in New York. Cortney has been a spokesperson for the New York State Governor’s Combat Heroin Campaign and currently sits on the Governor’s Opioid Crisis Task Force. She is a “Youth Voice” on and has been featured on “Inside Addiction” and in the documentary “Everywhere but Safe.” Cortney has participated in numerous press events, conferences, and training’s, speaking out about addiction and educating others on the value of recovery supports.

Elana Marton, Deputy Director and Counsel, NYS Council on Children and Families
Class: Youth Rights
Major: Systems Advocacy
Elana Marton serves as the Deputy Director and Counsel of the New York State Council on Children and Families, which helps to coordinate the state’s health, education and human service systems for children and their families. At the Council, Elana helps develop policies impacting youth with cross-system needs and responds to questions regarding how children and youth can access needed services. Previously, Elana served as Associate Counsel to the Speaker of the New York State Assembly where she drafted and negotiated legislation on mental hygiene issues, including the “Children’s Mental Health Act of 2006” which has been the building block for interagency collaborations aimed at improving the emotional and social well-being of New York’s children and families. Before working in New York, Elana worked on child welfare and other policies for the Nevada State Legislature and on local government issues at the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities. She has a law degree from the University of Connecticut School of Law and a B.A. from Wesleyan University in Connecticut.

Jarel Melendez, Youth Advocate Coordinator, Lawyers for Children, Inc.
Class: Know Your Rights in Foster Care: You Are Not Alone!
Major: Peer Advocacy
Jarel L Melendez is the Youth Advocate Coordinator for the Adolescents Confronting Transition (ACT) Project at Lawyers For Children, a non-profit child advocacy organization that provides legal representation and social work services to children in foster care, abuse, neglect, custody, visitation, termination of parental rights, paternity, and family offense proceedings. Jarel is a product of the Child Welfare System, and he uses his experiences as a former foster care youth to inspire his clients to take every opportunity available to achieve success. Additionally, Mr. Melendez is a member of state and citywide workgroups focused on issues of aging out of foster care, and has testified before the New York City Council and the New York State Assembly on issues affecting youth aging out of care. Mr. Melendez also created and led’s a Monthly Support group for LGBT Foster Care Youth titled “Circle Of Youth”. The North American Council on Adoptable Children organization in 2010 presented Jarel Melendez with an award “Youth Advocate of the Year”. The Administration for Children Services (ACS) in 2013 presented Jarel Melendez with an award Honoring LGBTQ & Ally Foster Care Leaders “Outstanding Foster Youth Award”. Jarel has a Master’s Degree in Marketing from Baruch University.

Abja Midha, Project Director, Advocates for Children of NY
Class: Advocating for Multiple Pathways to a High School Diploma
Major: Systems Advocacy
Abja is a Project Director at Advocates for Children of New York (AFC).  Abja coordinates the Coalition for Multiple Pathways to a Diploma, a statewide coalition of educational and advocacy organizations and families who have come together to urge the creation of multiple pathways to a high school diploma in New York State.  She also leads AFC’s Immigrant Students’ Rights Project, which works to increase educational programs, opportunities, and outcomes for immigrant students and English Language Learners.
Abja served as Vice President of Strategy for Teach For America.  Abja has also worked as a Litigation Associate at Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler, LLP, served as a law clerk for the Honorable Charles P. Sifton with the United States District Court, E.D.N.Y, and worked as a Staff Attorney at Sanctuary for Families’ Immigration Intervention Project.

Cassandra Morse, Teen Services Coordinator, Finger Lakes Parent Network, Inc.
Class: Leading an Effective Team; Breath Body Mind
Major: Systems Advocacy; Activity for All Students
As a youth, Cadi struggled with depression, anxiety and suicidal tendencies which made her feel extremely isolated.  As a young adult she wanted to create a safe space for youth where they could feel accepted, supported by their peers and empowered to make changes in their own lives and the community.
Over the past 10 years, Cassandra “Cadi” Morse, Finger Lakes Parent Network, Inc. Teen Services Coordinator, has helped build a peer-to-peer support program throughout 9 counties in Western New York.   Cadi has experience supervising multiple employees, building a Youth Advisory Council and organizing regional conferences and events.  She also values youth partnerships and continues to make it a priority to advance youth leadership roles within the program and the community.

Stephanie Orlando, Founder, Executive Director, YOUTH POWER!
Class: Systems Advocacy 101 & The Peer Workforce: Building a Profession, Maintaining a Movement
Major: Systems Advocacy

Building upon her personal experience of having received children’s mental health, special education, and residential services, Ms. Orlando began her work with youth peer advocacy in 1998 in Buffalo New York.  She is dedicated to promoting positive change within child-serving systems, increasing the availability of peer support for young people and teaching youth how to advocate for their own needs and rights on all levels of service. Ms. Orlando is a nationally recognized advocate for youth with disabilities.  She has received numerous awards for her work, including the Diana Vietz Award in 2008 from the National Council on Independent Living and mpower Award in 2006 from the National Mental Health Association. In 2012, Ms. Orlando was appointed by President Obama and confirmed by the US Senate to the National Council on Disability for a term, which expired in November 2014.

Darby Penney, Community Consortium, Inc.
Class: Trauma-Informed Peer Support
Major: Peer Advocacy
Darby Penney is a long-time activist in the human rights movement for people with psychiatric labels and a Senior Research Associate with Advocates for Human Potential, Inc. She has provided training and technical assistance to SAMHSA’s National Center for Trauma-Informed Care and was a consultant to the Mental Health Empowerment Project’s “Creating Trauma-Informed Communities” Project.  She is a co-author of Engaging Women in Trauma-Informed Peer Support: A Guidebook. Darby was formerly Director of Recipient Affairs at the New York State Office of Mental Health, where she brought the perspectives of people with psychiatric histories into the policymaking process.  She is co-author with Peter Stastny of The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic (Bellevue Literary Press, 2008) and a website ( of the same name.

Bill Pryzlucki, Director, Collaborative Solutions, NYS Council on Children and Families
Class: Power and Systems Change
Major: Systems Advocacy

Lourdes Rivera, Executive Director, United We Stand of NY
Class: Advocating in the IEP Process: Owning Your Education – And Future!
Major: Peer Advocacy

Marc Rosen, Board of Directors, YOUTH POWER!
Class: Writing From Trauma: Turning Our Pain into Power
Activity for All Students
Marc Rosen has served on the YP! Board of Directors since 2012.  He’s edited several poetry anthologies, written a book on his experiences, and received international awards for his writings.

Diana Viglucci, Youth and Programs Coordinator, NAMI-NYC Metro
Class: The Art and Science of Public Speaking
Major: Systems Advocacy
Diana Viglucci joined the NAMI-NYC Metro family in the spring of 2015 as Youth & Programs Coordinator. She is a cum laude graduate of Cornell University, where she was a peer counselor and trainer, research assistant, and avid gorge-admirer. A passionate public speaker since the age of seven, she has done everything from yelling about the female orgasm to an audience of thousands, to presenting on the value of peer-led mental health services. A lifetime resident of the state of New York, she is thrilled to be creating spaces for young adults to speak candidly and confidently about their experiences.

Patricia Zuber-Wilson, Licensed Zumba Instructor
Class: Zumba
Activity for All Students

Pat has been a licensed Zumba instructor for almost two years.  She leads Zumba classes at the Troy Branch of the Capital District YMCA and other locations in the Capital Region.  In addition, she has participated in numerous Zumbathon Charity events throughout the community.